What makes Putin’s invasion of the Ukraine different is it’s a “modern” war. All the available up-to-date death-dealing technology aimed at the twenty-first century city of Kyiv. Multi-storey blocks of apartments which suddenly become very vulnerable to weapons delivered by supersonic jets screaming across an unchallenged sky. Refugees, well-dressed for winter, packing suitcases, getting into cars and forming traffic jams.
Contrast and compare with the scenes of yesteryear occurring in, say, Kabul in Afghanistan.
Modern in the sense that we, the spectators, become uneasily aware of an elephant in the room. Just suppose the Ukrainian forces managed to force some kind of military stalemate, however unlikely. You’ve heard translations of Putin’s hardline broadcasts; language born out of a 30-year-old grudge, with the fall of the Berlin Wall seen as a world catastrophe. The loss of an empire. Would this guy hesitate to use even more deadly weapons?
And there have been hints. One of Putin’s early aims was to take over the still radioactive prize of Chernobyl in northern Ukraine, scene of the world’s greatest nuclear accident. Why? I have absolutely no idea. Only that it seems symbolic and, in my book, symbols proclaim the zealot.
Those of us with a true sense of history will find no comfort. US and UK citizens talk easily about the way we “won” WW2. It’s true we were on the winning side but we were not alone. Think of that relentless horde coming in from the East and sweeping across half of Germany. Yes, those guys. Twenty-million dead yet still they came.
Ukrainian soldiers are being asked to sacrifice themselves. Why not surrender and, later, form guerrilla armies. Recalling why those same Russians, after years of trying, left Afghanistan to the Taliban.